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School board discusses U-46 P.E. waiver process

By Seth Hancock
  Physical education (P.E.) waivers continue to be a hot issue in School District U-46.
  In August, the Board of Education unanimously approved of the districts effort to seek a waiver from the state to allow U-46 the ability to grant more P.E. waivers for high school juniors and seniors. Suzanne Johnson, deputy superintendent of instruction, said at the time the reason for the request was to allow more “flexibility” in scheduling and U-46 sought to make P.E. “an elective for 11th- and 12th-grade students.”
  However, according to one Bartlett High School student the district is not allowing her flexible scheduling as Gabrielle Steven, a sophomore in Bartlett’s academy, addressed the board during public comments on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.
  Steven said she has been a gymnast since the age of 4 and her practice schedule is the “equivalent of a part time job,” but U-46 has denied her waiver request for next year. She said she competes for a club team rather than for the high school team.
  “My hope is that you will consider expanding your exemptions to students who participate in 10 or more hours of sports outside of school,” Steven said and added: “I believe not allowing students like me to receive this exemption is not consistent with the current allowances…. What is happening right now is discouraging students from participating outside of school.”
  U-46 currently grants waivers for students who participate in band or on Illinois High School Association (IHSA) teams for their school according to Steven.
  Steven said she is a level 10 gymnast and practices 20 hours a week and over 1,000 hours a year, and she has competed nationally for her club.
  “Some people would say in this situation that students who do sports outside of school are not supporting the school, but this doesn’t take into account the fact that students who are competing outside of school sports are trying to compete at the highest level that they can and some schools often do not offer that level,” Steven said.
  In some sports, it’s harder to receive a scholarship competing with the school team rather than a club team Steven said, and she added that other districts do grant waivers for students in club sports. She said she has a friend in club sports who attends Schaumburg High School and received a waiver from her district.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders told Steven: “We follow the state law to the tee in regards to waivers…. It’s all set by state law, not U-46.”
  Sanders claimed a student “does not qualify for the waiver under state law” unless they participate in an IHSA team sport.
  Board member Jeanette Ward congratulated Steven for her gymnastics’ accomplishments and wanted the district to look further into the waiver process.
  “I have a high respect for a level 10 gymnast,” Ward said. “That is a fabulous, fantastic achievement. I can’t believe that the state law does not allow a student like that to get a P.E. exemption.”
  Ward asked if the board could further discuss the matter to which Sanders replied: “Sure. I don’t know what there’s to talk about.”
  Ward asked if the district could “petition the state on an individual basis,” and board member Sue Kerr asked if the district was “trying to get a waiver?” Board member Veronica Noland asked if Steven’s request as a club athlete was a category that could receive a waiver?
  Sanders said U-46 “did get our waiver request back from the state” but “we have to figure out how to process that internally.” He said Steven’s specific request was not allowed under the waiver.
  However, the Illinois School Code under 105 ILCS 5/27-6 is unclear. That portion of the code was cited by U-46 when it applied for the district’s waiver.
  Nowhere in the code does it stipulate involvement in IHSA sanctioned sport. It states: “A school board is authorized to excuse pupils enrolled in grades 11 and 12 from engaging in physical education courses if those pupils request to be excused… for ongoing participation in an interscholastic athletic program.”
  “A school board may also, on a case-by-case basis, excuse pupils in grades 7 through 12 who participate in an interscholastic or extracurricular athletic program from engaging in physical education courses,” the code further states.




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